Sierra Leone is in a bigger mess now than ever. Don’t fall for the party political jamboree that took place in the capital Freetown this week, with up to 50 Russian donated rubbish collection trucks in a convoy, parading the streets and accompanying the president on his visit to various towns and cities to deliver his political message.
A government presiding over hyper-inflation in a country with a worthless currency, cannot talk of progress. No way. And they know this to be an irrefutable economic fact.
I have never heard of elected politicians in Sierra Leone going on strike over salaries, despite awarding themselves high salaries and money flowing into their bank accounts every month, whilst other public sector workers and society in general struggle to make ends meet.
Teachers are undervalued and exploited. Salaries are very low, and many don’t receive their salaries for up to 7 or 8 months. I know a retired teacher in Kenema, who taught in government secondary school for 25 years. He is receiving a monthly pension of 700,000 Leones, which is never paid on time. 700,000 Leones is £60.
A member of parliament who served only one five years term in parliament can get a pension of £2,000 a month or probably more. Being an MP is not a pensionable job. But in Sierra Leone, the only job that pays very well is politics.
The former president has no fewer than two dozen state security personnel for his protection, as well as house boys and drivers – all paid for by the State. Not even George Bush, Tony Blair who waged an illegal war on Iraq have more than two state provided securities, respectively. And so does Barack Obama.
The entire political structure in Sierra Leone is a conspiracy that is configured to benefit the political class, rather than encourage and bring out the best of the country’s productive human resources.
Nurses are undervalued and exploited. Like teachers, many don’t receive their salaries for 7 to 8 months. A newly qualified teacher or nurse can work for 2 years without pay, whilst they wait for what the government refers to as ‘pin-code’ to be issued before they are officially enrolled to begin to receive their salary.
After grievances narrated by these suffering nurses and teachers in a video interview recently, the government decided to pay one-month backdated salary after 8 months of working. So what happens to the 7 months’ pay.
Why pay one-month salary and not pay their full 8 months’ salary? And why the delay in paying money they are owed? How does the government expect a teacher with wife and children, and his mother – all depending on him to survive?
And yet, is this not a government that wasted millions of dollars on expensive unnecessary overseas trips and increased salaries for ministers and their political appointees?
How reckless and callous are those we elect, turning a blind eye and giving deaf ears to the plight of their fellow citizens languishing in abject poverty and deprivation? This needs to be thoroughly and judiciously investigated by the ACC because it borders on corruption and criminality.
Not paying workers is a violation of their human rights, an assault on human dignity. But does our government care? The evidence doesn’t demonstrate empathy or concern.
Many of our elected politicians and their party’s public sector appointees award themselves high salaries, which makes it easy for them to afford private medical care in Sierra Leone or fly abroad to receive extremely expensive medical attention in Europe, America, Ghana , South Africa and Lebanon.
In just six months of the Bio government coming to power, MPs passed a bill increasing their salaries by up to 300 percent along with ridiculous benefits such as wardrobe allowances.
The salary of the imposed Paopa speaker of parliament – Dr Abass Bundu is a man with a history of dishonesty and corruption, a man who was recently secretly filmed naked in a room with a young lady, earns more than the speaker of the British Parliament.
Sierra Leone’s economy is underperforming, and the government relies significantly on donors, loans and international budgetary support. Yet the government recently purchased 30 SUV jeeps for its ministers to fight COVID 19, when it was reported that the government hospital in the second largest city of Sierra Leone – Bo , did not have a single oxygen to treat COVID 19 patients.
It was left with a popular female activist in Sierra Leone, who announced this to raised funds for the hospital.
Right now, university exams have been put on hold because lecturers are demanding better conditions and pay. What pains and disruptions visited on the anxious students after they had put everything aside to prepare for their exams. I feel very strongly about this because I am sponsoring two university students.
Many commentators have described Sierra Leone as an “animal farm society”. It is true. A former fearless Sierra Leonean journalist, who is now with the United Nations has described Sierra Leone as “not a normal country”.
The former British high commissioner to Sierra Leone, Peter Penfold who was instrumental in returning the country to constitutional order after the violent coup that temporarily exiled the democratically elected government of president Kabba, described Sierra Leone as “a tragedy in which the country is one of the richest in the world but remains the poorest in the world.” He added that only few people are responsible for the suffering and miseries of the vast majority of the people.
I have described Sierra Leone as a dystopian society where few criminals enrich themselves through corrupt means, with poor fellow citizens begging to put food on the table.
There is no change or future for Sierra Leone until people of all political parties and regions reject mediocrity, tribalism, regionalism and elect a new political leadership with a clear vision, different from this perennial paralysis created by the two party system.